As a field technician, Tom travelled around the world extracting sediment from remote places: “I worked in Iceland, Patagonia, the South Pacific; drilling into lake, ocean, floodplain, and bog sediment – which is challenging, especially when you have to carry the extracts out on your back!”

While Tom loved the travel, he wanted to be involved in the analysis. Fast-forward two and a half years, and Tom is a teaching and research technician in the Geography Department at The University of Manchester. By looking at metre long sediment cores from up to 30 metres deep in the ground, he has a snapshot of the earth over two millennia or more: “The stuff at the bottom is the oldest and stuff at the top is the newest. It’s like a 2-foot long time-machine!” This ‘time-machine’ can show Tom the changes in chemistry from 20,000 years ago, and sometimes more.

To analyse the chemistry, Tom uses a special non-destructive x-ray machine, alongside other laboratory equipment. Changes in chemistry can be caused by the climate at the time the sediment was deposited.

Ultimately, his work is helping us to find ways to save the planet from climate-change. “We help researchers to reconstruct past environmental change, so we can better understand and predict future climate behaviour; we monitor environmental pollution to measure the scale of the problem and develop a strategy. We teach students a scientific way to problem-solve which will hopefully lead to them arguing for evidence-based improvements to environmental policy. As technicians we try our best to be environmentally conscious, reducing energy usage and using materials that can be used again or recycled.”

To find out more about technician careers with Manchester University click here.

Tom - Career Pathway

  • 2003
    1st technical job in a photographic laboratory
  • 2005
    Completed A levels in Geography, English, Economics and History
  • 2009
    Completed an undergraduate degree in Geography at The University of Manchester
  • 2014
    Became a Field Technician at the University of Southampton
  • 2015
    Completed a PHD in Physical Geography at The University of Southampton
  • 2016
    Became a Teaching & Research Technician in the Geography department at the University of Manchester

Stats - Teaching and research technician

Average Salary


Employment Statuses

Full Time Employed: 66,886
Part Time Employed: 18,006
Self Employed: 2,515
Total Employed: 87,407

Gender Split

Male: 58,319
Female: 29,088

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Laboratory technicians

Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and checks, and perform a variety of technical support functions requiring the application of established or prescribed procedures and techniques to assist scientists with their research, development, analysis and testing, and to verify the physical, chemical and other characteristics of materials and products.

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